British man who launched Isil suicide attack was Guantanamo Bay detainee awarded £1m compensation
A British Islamic State fighter who carried out a suicide bombing in Iraq this week is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was paid £1 million compensation by the government.
Jamal al-Harith, a Muslim convert born Ronald Fiddler who detonated a car bomb at an Iraqi army base near Mosul, was released from the US detention camp in 2004 and successfully claimed compensation after saying British agents knew or were complicit in his mistreatment.
He was freed following intense lobbying by Tony Blair’s Labour government.
Al-Harith, who used the nom de guerre Abu-Zakariya al-Britani, entered Syria via Turkey in 2014 to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, leading to questions at the time about the monitoring of terrorist suspects.
It also raised the possibility that compensation money paid by British taxpayers had been handed on by him to Isil.
Earlier this week Isil released an image of him sitting inside the bomb car grinning broadly, with wires and what may be a detonation button in the background.
A statement released by the terrorist group said: “The martyrdom-seeking brother Abu Zakariya al-Britani - may Allah accept him - detonated his explosives-laden vehicle on a headquarters of the Rafidhi army and its militias in Tal Kisum village, southwest of Mosul.”
“Rafidha” is a derogatory term for Shiite Muslims, who Isil considers to be heretics.
His brother, Leon Jameson, told The Times Al-Harith had “wasted his life”.
He added: "I didn’t think he’d ever do anything wrong but, if he’s joining extremists, then, you know ... I’m not ashamed of him, I never will be. But it’s his own decision. I can only just give him advice if he needs any.”
The 53-year-old said his brother had been a keen sportsman in his youth, playing football, basketball and table-tennis and winning a trophy for karate when he was a teenager.
He later converted to Islam after meeting Muslim friends at a sixth form college.
“All I know is one day he brought a Quran home,” Mr Jameson told the newspaper.
“We were supportive of it, yeah,we didn’t see anything wrong with it at the time and the trouble only started later, seems like he’s been dragged into it."
The 50-year-old, originally from Manchester, was arrested by US forces in Pakistan in 2001 as a suspected Taliban sympathiser, before being sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in 2002.
At the time of his release, the then home secretary David Blunkett said: “No-one who is returned...will actually be a threat to the security of the British people.”
Earlier this week Isil named him as the man who had blown himself up in the car bombing at the Iraqi army base, and released a picture of him.
Al-Harith’s wife Shukee Begum travelled to Syria with their five children to try to persuade her husband to return to the UK, but failed and was taken hostage before eventually managing to escape.
Al-Harith, the son of Jamaican immigrants, converted to Islam in the 1990s and worked as a web designer before he travelled to the Pakistani city of Quetta in 2001 for what he claimed was a religious holiday.
He has insisted he tried to enter Iran when the US invaded neighbouring Afghanistan, but was captured and imprisoned by the Taliban on suspicion of being a UK spy.
When US special forces found him in a Taliban jail, they assessed him as a “high threat to the US” who was “probably involved in a former terrorist attack against the US”.
Al-Harith’s prisoner file from Guantanamo Bay, published online by WikiLeaks, refers to him travelling to Sudan in 1992 with “Abu Bakr, a well-known al-Qaeda operative”.
After his return to the UK - where he was released without charge - he joined three other former prisoners known as the Tipton Three in a failed attempt to sue Donald Rumsfeld, the then US Defense Secretary.
His legal action against the British government was more successful, resulting in a payment of up to £1 million in return for which he agreed not to talk about his ordeal.
As many as 850 people regarded as a national security concern have travelled to fight with jihadis in the Middle East.
Just under half are thought to have returned to Britain while 15 per cent are believed to have been killed.
The Foreign Office states:
The UK has advised for some time against all travel to Syria, and against all travel to large parts of Iraq.As all UK consular services are suspended in Syria and greatly limited in Iraq, it is extremely difficult to confirm the whereabouts and status of British nationals in these areas.
The other 4 key British jihadis known to have died fighting for Isil
1. Mohammed Emwazi / Jihadi John
Emwazi was reported killed in a November 2015 air strike, with US forces saying they were "reasonably certain" he was dead.
Isil later released what appeared to be an obituary to the fighter, who it called Abu Muharib al-Muhajir.
It featured a smiling picture of the militant, who appeared unmasked looking towards the ground.Emwazi shocked the world when he appeared in a video in August 2014 in which he condemned the West and appeared to behead US journalist James Foley.
He emerged again in a number of other videos released by Isil, including those in which American reporter Steven Sotloff and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning were murdered.
Kuwait-born Emwazi attended Quintin Kynaston Community Academy in north London and was described by his former head teacher as a "hard-working aspirational young man".
He went on to gain a degree in information systems with business management from the University of Westminster.
2. Reyaad Khan
Khan was 20 when he appeared in an Isil propaganda video titled, There Is No Life Without Jihad, in June last year together with two other Britons urging Westerners to join the war.
The man, from Cardiff, is thought to have travelled to fight in Syria late in 2013.
His Facebook page revealed that he was a Chelsea FC fan who enjoyed playing computer games FIFA 12 and Call Of Duty.
After appearing in the video with a Kalashnikov assault rifle against his shoulder his mother said she believed he had been "brainwashed" into joining Isil.
In a direct appeal to her son, the woman, who asked to remain unnamed, sobbed as she said: "Reyaad, please come back home. I'm dying for you. You're my only son."
Before leaving for Syria, Khan attended Cardiff's Al-Manar Centre (ACT) together with Nasser Muthana, who was also filmed for the Isil recruitment video.
The mosque denied the pair had been taught extremist views there and blamed the internet as an "alarming source for radicalisation".
David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, said Khan had been killed on August 21 2015 when he was targeted by an RAF remotely piloted aircraft while travelling in a vehicle in Raqqah, Syria.
3. Ruhul Amin
Amin, 26, featured alongside Khan and Muthana in the 13-minute Isil recruitment video under the name Brother Abu Bara al Hindi.
Wearing sunglasses and a white headscarf, he could be heard saying: "Are you willing to sacrifice the fat job you've got, the big car, the family you have?
"Are you willing to sacrifice this, for the sake of Allah? If you do Allah will give you back 700 times more."
Also known as Abdul Raqib Amin, he was born in Bangladesh and grew up in Aberdeen before reportedly moving with his family to Leicester.
Explaining the moment he left Britain, he said: "I left the house with the intention of not to go back. I'm going to stay and fight until the (caliphate) is established, or I die."
A leading member of Aberdeen's Muslim community, who did not want to be identified, said he was not someone who "stood out in any particular way".
He was killed in the same airstrike as Khan.
4. Junaid Hussain
Computer hacker Hussain was described as a key Isil operative before he was killed by a US drone strike on August 24 2016.
The 21-year-old, from Birmingham, was said to have been number three on the Pentagon's "kill list" of Isil targets.
It is believed that he fled Britain to travel to Syria in 2013, and in June last year he was linked to a plot to attack an Armed Forces Day parade in south London.
The plan to explode a pressure cooker bomb - killing soldiers and bystanders on the route - was reportedly foiled after Hussain unwittingly recruited an undercover investigator from The Sun to carry it out.
In June 2012, aged 18, Hussain was jailed for six months after he admitted making prank calls to a counter-terror hotline and publishing former prime minister Tony Blair's address book.
He was a member of TeaMpOisoN (TeamPoison), a group which claimed responsibility for more than 1,400 offences where personal and private information has been illegally extracted from victims in the UK and around the world.
Hussain was reportedly married to a Muslim convert named as Sally Jones, a mother-of-two from Kent who once was a member of an all-girl punk rock group.